For Scarlett Martin, life at her family’s aging New York City hotel has become significantly darker since her summer romance with Eric dissipated. Scarlett’s actor brother, Spencer, has found himself a pretty exciting new gig — all at the hands of Mrs. Amberson, the Hopewell Hotel’s eccentric former resident. Even with her out of the Martins’ hotel, Mrs. Amberson keeps Scarlett on the payroll at the talent agency she establishes . . . and, needing the cash, Scarlett stays on as her assistant. Even when Mrs. Amberson’s new clients include an overworked teen Broadway star and her annoying — but adorable — brother.
As Spencer’s career takes off in a controversial way, Scarlett grapples with typical teenage family drama. Her younger sister Marlene, once a disgruntled kid and cancer survivor, has become curiously kind and attentive. Oldest sister Lola is back with Chip, her rich blue-blood boyfriend, and the Martins as a whole are none to pleased about it. Still, there’s something to be said for finding a ticket out of the family’s tight finances . . . isn’t there?
Maureen Johnson’s Scarlett Fever, sequel to 2008’s Suite Scarlett, is a fun, light look at teenage Scarlett’s attempts to heal her broken heart, mend friendships and keep her screwball family up and running. The Martins, eccentric though they may be, are a hard-working crew I’ve come to love and appreciate through two novels’ worth of focus.
With the razor-sharp wit for which she’s known on Twitter, Johnson approaches the never-ending drama rampant in her Scarlett books with humor — and tenderness. Through everything that befalls them, there’s never any doubt that the four Martin siblings love one another . . . even when they kind of want to kill each other, too. As I mentioned after finishing the first book in the series, it’s really refreshing to see a family portrayed with the right balance of affection and disdain. Because, you know, who hasn’t wanted to punch their sister in the brain from time to time? That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t destroy a cake for them. Or something.
My beef with the novel is the same as before . . . I don’t know that the third-person narration really adds anything to the story. Overall, I would have enjoyed Scarlett Fever more if we’d seen the entire story through the lens of Scarlett’s own perspective. As it stands, she’s our titular character — but I wished I’d been even more inside her mind at times. Not a novel-ruiner, but just something that irked me.
Fans of young adult fiction — and Johnson’s hilarious tweets! — will find plenty to enjoy in the Scarlett books, brimming with entertainment and warmth. And if the cliff-hanger of an ending is any indication, looks like we’ll have a third novel to add to the stacks sometime soon.
4 out of 5!